Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta addressed the press ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash.
Another limp Premier League display against Wolves last time out brought new levels of criticism for the rookie Spaniard, who for all his efforts can’t get his Arsenal side to create in the final third.
Gabriel Magalhaes netted the first goal from open play in the league that Arsenal had scored for eight hours, a towering header to briefly draw the hosts level from Willian‘s right-wing cross.
Having previously seen his side blunt in wide areas, often resorting to meaningless cutbacks and laborious switches of play, Arsenal were more keen to whip crosses into the box against Wolves – somewhat frustratingly.
Attempting no less than 35 during the match – the most so far this season for the Gunners in the Premier League – considering only three found a target, maybe it wasn’t the best ploy. Especially since the only player available in the Arsenal team adept at heading the ball into the back of the net is a central defender.
"“I think it is the first time in the Premier League that we’ve produced 33 crosses. I’m telling you if we do that more consistently, we’re going to score more goals.“If we put the bodies that we had in certain moments during that game in the box, it’s maths, pure maths. It will happen. It’s about how consistently we can do that, with what level of quality. We will keep trying, don’t worry.”"
Worrying is, well, exactly what many supporters are doing. What Arsenal don’t have is players who can head a ball. Alexandre Lacazette can’t, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is far superior with the ball at his feet, and on either flank, neither Bukayo Saka nor Willian are specialists in that field.
Before all hell breaks loose, it doesn’t necessarily indicate high, aimless lumps into the box.
Kieran Tierney is the best crosser of a ball in our side. His weight of pass and accuracy is effective, yet the majority of his deliveries come when Arsenal are in a spell of possession deep in the opponents’ half. By this stage, the box is fully packed and our physically dominated side are not in a position to beat the opposition defenders.
Crosses coming in sooner, whether high or low, could be effective for the pace of Aubameyang through the middle, so jumping on Arteta’s back immediately without knowing the full plan is premature.
It is understandable given the haphazard manner of the crosses produced against Wolves that Arteta means persisting with the same method that brought such little joy, but there could be method to the madness that is not uncovered.
I’ll admit, the way in which he spoke doesn’t indicate as such. With a starting XI of weak headers of the ball, it could just plummet Arsenal deeper into a new rabbit hole. Progression on the ball and utilising the middle third of the pitch is essential. What Arteta has stated isn’t promising, but we’re yet to see his idea in practice.
And no, I don’t mean the aimless hitting and hoping we saw towards the end of the Wolves loss. I hope not, anyway.